The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: Ready for take-off at IWM Duxford

Princess Elizabeth stood in front of an L-plated truck during her time in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).

Princess Elizabeth stood in front of an L-plated truck during her time in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). - Credit: © IWM (TR 2835)

IWM will mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by exploring over 70 years of crown and conflict through photography, film and objects.

Throughout her 70-year reign, and in the decades before, Her Majesty The Queen has lived through times of conflict, maintaining an enduring relationship with the Armed Forces and honouring those affected by war at home and across the world.

Marking this year's Platinum Jubilee, Imperial War Museums (IWM) will present a rich programme that, for the first time in the museum’s history, explores the role of the Royal Family in conflict.

IWM Duxford, IWM London and IWM North will trace Queen Elizabeth’s personal experience of war through poignant items, including rarely seen film and photography, in IWM’s collections.

At IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire, from May 27 to January 8, 2023, AirSpace visitors can get up close with some of the world’s most famous aircraft.

General view of British Aircraft Corporation/Aérospatiale Concorde 101 in the AirSpace Hall at IWM Duxford.

A British Aircraft Corporation/Aérospatiale Concorde 101 in IWM Duxford’s AirSpace Hall forms part of a new object trail exploring British and Commonwealth aviation during the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. - Credit: © IWM / Duxford Aviation Society.

A trail of objects in this hangar will tell the story of British and Commonwealth aviation during the Queen’s 70-year reign, a time marked by unprecedented social, political and technological change.

The year Elizabeth acceded the throne was the same year that the world’s first Comets entered service, slashing journey times for passenger aircraft.

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Visitors to IWM Duxford will be able to explore an example of this in a de Havilland Comet, which made the very first eastbound transatlantic flight in 1958.

There's also a new addition to the Duxford fleet – a BAe 146 aircraft that was used by the Royal Family to travel the world and one of the first jet aircraft in The Queen’s Flight. 

The Queen’s Flight - British Aerospace 146 ZE701 BAe146 Statesman VIP model, from the RAF’s Number 32 Squadron.

A BAe 146 used by the Queen and British Royal Family forms part of a new object trail at IWM Duxford exploring British and Commonwealth aviation during her 70-year reign. - Credit: © IWM / Duxford Aviation Society

Accompanying the trail at IWM Duxford, a large-scale projection of recently digitised film from IWM’s archive will provide a visual backdrop to the permanent displays of AirSpace.

Presented together for the first time, this footage offers glimpses into the official public duties of the Queen alongside more private moments in her relationship with the Armed Forces.

With a running time of approximately 10 minutes, this special display includes a colour sequence of the Queen travelling to her coronation in 1953, attended by British and Commonwealth armed forces, as well as footage of her as a young princess travelling to South Africa on HMS Vanguard in 1947 with her father King George VI, mother Queen Elizabeth, and sister Princess Margaret. 

The Royal Family and Winston Churchill at Buckingham Palace during Victory in Europe (VE) Day celebrations, May 8, 1945.

The Royal Family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Buckingham Palace during Victory in Europe (VE) Day celebrations, May 8, 1945. - Credit: © IWM (MH 21835)

As part of The Queen’s Green Canopy, a nationwide tree planting initiative created to mark the Platinum Jubilee, two cherry trees have also been planted at IWM Duxford.

Chosen as a traditional form of remembrance for the fallen servicemen of World War Two, the blooming of these cherry trees throughout the spring and summer months will act as a permanent reminder of the historic moment of the Platinum Jubilee.

The Queen inspects the Royal Guard of Royal Marines from HMS Newfoundland during her visit to Colombo, Ceylon, April 11, 1954

The Queen inspects the Royal Guard of Royal Marines from HMS Newfoundland during her visit to Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), April 11, 1954. - Credit: © IWM (A 32913)

At IWM London, Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime is a new exhibition of poignant photographs exploring the breadth and scope of the Queen’s role in times of war. 

Newly digitised photographs include an image of the Queen dressed in overalls and cap while working on a vehicle during her time in the ATS.

She is also captured with her father King George VI and mother Queen Elizabeth during a visit to airborne forces in 1944.

Princess Elizabeth taking out the plugs of a vehicle as part of her Auxiliary Territorial Service training, April 10, 1945

Princess Elizabeth taking out the plugs of a vehicle as part of her training in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), April 10, 1945. - Credit: © IWM (H 41670)

As Princess Elizabeth, the Queen’s first public duties were during the Second World War, which broke out when she was just 13 years old.

Upon joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945, she became the first woman in The Royal Family to enlist as a full-time member of the armed services.

Since then, the Queen has supported those who serve and veterans of conflict in her role as Head of the Armed Forces, a post that continues a long royal military tradition.  

Princess Elizabeth next to an ambulance, April 1945, during her time in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).

Princess Elizabeth next to an ambulance, April 1945, during her time in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). - Credit: © IWM (TR 2832)

Kate Clements is curator of Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime and author of new publication The Royal Family in Wartime, which is published on May 12. 

Kate said: "We are delighted to be offering visitors to IWM London, IWM North and IWM Duxford a unique lens through which to explore The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

"Reflecting on her incredible 70-year reign, this new programming brings to light rarely seen material from IWM’s archive alongside collection objects to trace the varied roles of The Royal Family in times of conflict.

"From an exhibition of photographs and a brand-new publication to museum trails and projections of historic film, we hope our audiences discover something new about the enduring relationship between crown and conflict.’"

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with members of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association in 2010.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with members of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association at Buckingham Palace in 2010. - Credit: © IWM (IWM_2010_075_110)

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at IWM runs from May 27, 2022 to January 8, 2023 at IWM London and IWM Duxford, and throughout the month of June 2022 at IWM North.